Islamic Advances in Mathematics and Science Global History and Geography I name

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Islamic Advances in Mathematics and Science

Global History and Geography I Name: ___________________

E. Napp Date: ___________________

There were great achievements by Muslim scholars and scientists during the “Golden Age of Islamic Civilization” which lasted from 750 to 1050 A.D. Great advances were made in the Abbasid Islamic Empire (its capital was in Baghdad). Great achievements also continued afterwards in Muslim Spain and in Cairo, Egypt. However, the "Golden Age" was the most prolific (producing in great quantities) period for science and mathematics. These achievements also greatly influenced learning in Europe. Without the Muslim achievements of this time, much of the learning from ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt would have been lost forever. It is important to remember that while the Muslims were experiencing a golden age, the people of Western Europe were experiencing the Middle Ages, a period where an interest in learning actually decreased.

Why did the Muslims experience a Golden Age?
A- Encouragement of Education within Islam

The Muslims were encouraged by the Prophet Muhammad to "seek learning even as far as China". In the area of medicine, the Prophet Muhammad also encouraged a scientific approach. He said, "For every disease, Allah has given a cure," and scientists were encouraged to find those cures. This attitude toward learning and research was a powerful reason that science developed under Islam. Moreover, Islam encouraged learning in order to read the Qur'an (Koran – the holy book of Islam), which begins: "Recite!" (This is also translated: “Read!").

Here are some more Hadith or sayings of the Prophet Muhammad which encouraged learning:

"He who pursues the road of knowledge Allah will direct to the road of Paradise... The brightness of a learned man compared to that of a mere worshiper is like that of a full moon compared to all the stars.... Obtain knowledge; its possessor can distinguish right from wrong; it shows the way to Heaven; it befriends us in the desert and in solitude, and when we are friendless; it is our guide to happiness; it gives us strength in misery; it is an ornament to friends, protection against enemies.... The scholar's ink is holier than the martyr's blood.... Seeking knowledge is required of every Muslim....


  1. When did Muslims experience a golden age? What is a golden age? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  2. How did Muhammad encourage his followers to become scholars or people of learning? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  3. What is the Koran and how does it begin? What is the significance of its first word? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

B. Geographic Unity:

During its golden age, the territory of the Muslim Empire included present-day Iran, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Palestine, North Africa, Spain, parts of Turkey and more! People came from all of those lands to Baghdad. This brought about a sharing of ideas from different parts of the world.

The Abbasid Caliphate about 950 A.D.


  1. What lands were part of the Muslim Empire during its golden age? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  2. How did its cultural diversity affect learning in the Muslim Empire? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

C. Development of Paper

A third important reason for the Golden Age was the establishment of a paper mill (factory) in Baghdad. Paper was first invented in China and through cultural diffusion and trade; the Muslims learned how to make paper. (Actually Chinese papermakers were taken prisoner and forced to teach their captors how to make paper!) Soon paper replaced parchment (the skin of animals) and papyrus (a plant made into a kind of "paper" in ancient Egypt). The development of paper made it possible for a great many people to get books and learn from them. This was an important advance which affected education and scholarship.


6- Who invented paper and how did Muslims acquire knowledge about papermaking? _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

7- How did papermaking affect learning in the Islamic world? _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

D. A Unified Language

Another important reason for the "Golden Age" was the development of Arabic into a language of international scholarship. This was one of the most significant events in the history of ideas. Scholars could communicate with one another, and ideas were translated from Greek, Latin, ancient Egyptian, Chinese, and languages from other parts of the world. In the ninth century the Caliph al-Mamun encouraged the translation of Greek and Byzantine knowledge. With the approval of the Byzantine emperor, the caliph sent scholars to select and bring back Greek scientific manuscripts (handwritten works) for translation into Arabic. This knowledge could be read and discussed by scholars from all over the Islamic Empire.


8- Why was the development of Arabic as a unifying language critical to increases in learning during the Islamic golden age? _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

9- What did Caliph al-Mamun do that preserved Greek and Roman learning? _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Some Advances:

A. Chemistry and Alchemy: Jabir Ibn Haiyan, known in Europe by the name Geber, is generally known as the Father of Chemistry. He was one of the leading scientists in Kufa (in present day Iraq) around 776 A.D. Jabir's (Geber's) major contribution was in the field of Chemistry. Jabir emphasized experimentation and the development of methods to show the same result when an experiment was repeated.

B. Advances in Medicine: A Muslim scholar was the first to write a book that included anatomical drawings (pictures showing parts of the body), the book was translated into Latin and for centuries was used in both European and Middle Eastern universities. Muslim hospitals also pioneered the practice of diagnosis, cure, and future prevention. Al-Razi, a 9th century Persian physician, made the first major Muslim contribution to medicine when he developed treatments for smallpox and measles. Another Muslim physician is credited with discovering the contagious nature of diseases like tuberculosis, which he correctly concluded could be transmitted through the air, and led to the introduction of quarantine as a means of limiting the spread of such infectious diseases.

Write a Reflective Essay:

What conditions are necessary for the development of scientific and mathematical advances?

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